An American Sport Sedan
No, Clean Fleet Report is not discarding our focus on fuel efficient cars, pickup trucks and SUVs. But, as an editor and writer for the publication, I have not discarded my lust for more horsepower or driving performance, which started as a teenager and still lingers. That brings me to the 2017 Ford Fusion Sport.
For 2017, Ford dropped a new model in its Fusion sedan lineup that didn’t have a four-cylinder engine, the Fusion Sport. It raised the performance bar for mainstream four-doors to almost European luxury-sport levels. It satisfies customers who might have a family, but still like to do a bit of spirited driving now and again. In other words: the 2017 Ford Fusion Sport is a family sedan first and a driver’s car second.
The 2017 Ford Fusion Sport comes in only one trim level (there are no changes for the 2018 model year). Base pricing, at $34,350, is about 10-grand over a base Fusion; but it’s hardly worth comparing the two as they are really two different cars.
Government fuel economy ratings come in at 17-mpg city/26 highway/20 combined. Not exactly a fuel sipper, but not bad for a car that adds some serous fun to the driving experience. If an EPA city fuel-economy rating of 17-mpg bothers you, go read about the Fusion Hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. It will relieve any anxieties about our covering vehicles that achieve high fuel economy numbers.
A 325-Horsepower V-6 EcoBoost Engine
Ford dropped in the 2.7-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 borrowed from the F-150 and the Edge Sport between the Fusion’s front fenders. That makes it the only car in its class to claim 325 horsepower and a thudding 380 pounds-feet of torque while simultaneously going completely unnoticed. Unlike the heyday of the 1960s and 70s, it’s the first modern midsize family sedan to break the 300 horsepower barrier.
One of the horsepower rewards is, this family car will shoot past 60-mph in just a tick more than five seconds. Take it to the drag strip and you’ll see the quarter-mile in 13.7 seconds at 101 mph—muscle car territory.
However, the above numbers, including horsepower and torque, don’t apply everywhere. That’s because the engine will only make that much power when it’s drinking 93 octane premium gasoline. Some areas of the country, like California, 91 octane is the norm and 93 octane is not readily available.
The six-speed automatic transmission is a heavy-duty unit controlled by paddles attached to the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Behind that, there’s a standard computer-controlled all-wheel drive system, which operates in front-drive mode until it detects any wheel slip, or you harshly apply your foot to the accelerator pedal.
Basic suspension hardware is thoroughly addressed with stiffer springs, bigger anti-roll bars, and wider 235/40 Goodyear Eagle F1 tires on 19-inch dark-finished alloys. Summer-only tires are also available. But, the biggest deviation from the standard Ford Fusion playbook outside of the engine compartment is the solenoid valve-controlled continuous damping system. The system keeps a dozen watchful electronic eyes on the road and adjusts shock absorber response every two milliseconds in a bid to firm up the ride without sacrificing comfort in the process. It also incorporates something Ford engineers have labeled “pothole detection.” It attempts to lock a strut in its stiffest setting and allow the wheel to “glide” over a pothole in the road with more grace than the expected up-and-down motion.
Still a Pacesetter for Artsy Design
This generation of the Fusion has been on the market since the 2012. The Fusion is essentially a Ford Mondeo sold in European markets. The design was created by Ford’s European design group and follows the company’s “kinetic” styling themes.
Five years into it, the Fusion’s bold aerodynamic styling still looks fresh. It’s characterized by a wide lower front air dam and a hexagonal Aston-Martin-like grille that is wider and slightly more angular for 2017. The Fusion Sport is differentiated by its more aggressive front bumper with deeper air intakes and glossy black mesh grille insert. The grille is flanked by narrow headlamps that sweep gracefully into muscular front fenders. Thin roof pillars and a slopping roofline suggest a sense of lightness, while LED taillights and four polished exhaust tips dress up the backside.
The Inside Story
The cabin treads a similar kinetic styling design path. The center console has been redesigned around a new rotary shift dial, adding a media hub, a cell phone storage pocket, a larger console bin, and a longer center armrest. The overall look is sleek and somewhat premium. Framing the center stack of controls in a simple metallic ring that leaves a striking graphic imprint on the cabin.
Our car had voice-activated navigation and an 8.0-inch center touchscreen with swipe and pinch-to-zoom capability. It uses Ford’s latest Sync 3 system, which is far more user-friendly than before and compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Sport Upgrade package included digital displays in the instrument cluster, dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting, and more.
Touch points are soft and every inch of the interior uses high-quality materials that project a high-end look and feel. Standard upgraded sport seats with suede inserts and carbon fiber-like trim were firn yet comfortable and infinitely adjustable. Rear seating can accommodate three adult passengers with good legroom. The rear sloping roof cuts into headroom, but shouldn’t be a deal breaker.
The Fusion Sport is jam-packed with safety and convenience features, including stability control, a plethora of airbags including ones for knees and side curtains. The test drive car came with Ford’s full array of driving assists, including pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, a rearview camera, blind-spot warning, lane-keeping assist and automatic high-beam headlamps. Also included was automated guidance into parallel or perpendicular parking spots.
Driving the Fusion Sport
I found the 2017 Ford Fusion Sport’s ride comfortable even after a few hours behind the wheel, thanks in part to the soft, supportive seat cushion. I particularly appreciated the adjustable steering column and extensively adjustable driver’s seat, which allowed me to find the right driving position and maximize visibility.
If you are like me, and taut, responsive driving is to your liking, you won’t feel shortchanged by the decision to buy the Sport version of the Fusion. That’s because the basic mechanicals under the sheetmetal come from one of Europe’s best-handling family sedans.
There was a polished efficiency to city driving; the suspension ironed out the worst of urban lumps and dispatched neglected potholes with ease. The Fusions Sport is quick, but it’s also obvious that Ford made ride comfort a top priority. The cabin is pleasantly quiet at highway speeds, and so is the engine, which only sounds rowdy at wide-open throttle.
Pushing the S button in the center of the new dial-operated shifter sharpened the Sport’s reflexes. It tightened the adaptive-damping system, increased steering effort and quickened throttle response. The all-wheel-drive system doled out the power well, and the steering felt well engineered and corners could be approached with confidence. The transmission gave more control through the standard paddle shifters. It upshifted automatically at 6,000 rpm no matter what I did with the paddles, but it held gears through corners and rev-matched downshifts under braking.
During our week with the 2017 Ford Fusion Sport we clocked 537 miles, 149 of which were tallied on a round trip from Olympia, Washington, to Seattle. An additional 137 miles were clocked on a leisurely Saturday drive up and back on the Hood Canal. The balance of the miles was split 60 percent in-town driving and 40 percent two-lane highways. When we gave the keys back to Ford, the combined fuel economy came in sligthly higher than the EPA’s estimate at 21.2 mpg.
With the Fusion, Ford brought to its American buyers the same world-class road manners that overseas owners of the Mondeo have long enjoyed. With the Fusion Sport American EcoBoost
engine, Europeans may be envious.
All things considered, the 2017 Ford Fusion Sport is an excellent family hauler and commuter sedan with handsome styling, a quiet cabin, nimble chassis and smooth ride. Then, when the urge can’t be denied, the Fusion Sport becomes a sport sedan that you’d prefer to park your butt in and find some backcountry roads.
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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